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Misleading the public about AI, science, and religion

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concept illustration/©M-SUR, Fotolia

Researchers tried modeling intergroup anxiety but look what the public heard about the results, instead of the facts:

In fact, nearly every claim about the paper seems to misunderstand how computer models work generally and how they worked in this paper in particular. First, there is nothing particularly “religious” about the criteria used in the model. In computer models, you can name the pieces of the model however you wish. The authors of the software simply happened to assign religious names to the components of the model. There was hardly anything religious about it apart from that.

According to the BBC article, the study shows that “The most risky situations are when the difference in the size of two different religious groups is similar and people encounter ‘out-group members’ more regularly, perceiving them as dangerous.”

Did the study show that? Let’s look at it … More.

Jonathan Bartlett, “Did AI show that we are “a peaceful species” triggered by religion?” at Mind Matters

A useful primer for what to expect if people pay attention to these media dinosaurs and their enablers.

Jonathan Bartlett


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See also: Also by Jonathan Bartlett: Self-driving vehicles are just around the corner On the other side of a vast chasm…

and

Guess what?: You already own a self-driving car. Tech hype hits the stratosphere

7 Replies to “Misleading the public about AI, science, and religion

  1. 1
    EricMH says:

    What if we label the ingroup “atheist” and the outgroup “religious”? Does this model imply atheism causes violence?

  2. 2
    EricMH says:

    Also, I wouldn’t really call agent based simulations “AI”… The agents themselves just have simple decision rules. Nothing fancy like neural networks or gradient descent going on.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    News,

    I couldn’t but notice:

    “The most risky situations are when the difference in the size of two different religious groups is similar and people encounter ‘out-group members’ more regularly, perceiving them as dangerous.”

    In the logic of conflict, if one side is obviously overwhelming and determined, it does not make sense to fight unless one is forced unto Sun Tsu’s death ground with no escape.

    But when irreconcilable groups are at more or less parity (or near enough) and are polarised, there is an incentive to strike first if one may by surprise shift the Lanchester n^2 law combat power balance. That drives arms races and tactical innovations. It also drives he hit back first agit prop, e.g. essentially everyone at the start of WW1 thought they were defending themselves from dangerous adversaries.

    Attritional wars commonly result from failed knockout blows, WW1 being notorious.

    So, indeed, there is nothing particular about specifically religious motivation in such conflicts.

    The attempt to shift blame for a generic problem to religion, then, points to something seriously wrong with the proponents of the model.

    Indeed, it points to their own dangerous polarisation.

    KF

  4. 4
    vmahuna says:

    kairosfocus @3

    “essentially everyone at the start of WW1 thought they were defending themselves from dangerous adversaries.”

    Um, NO. WW1 was fought PRIMARILY because the English had for centuries (starting with the then powerful Netherlands) based their foreign policy on creating wars against the strongest country in Europe. By 1900, that country was Germany, so England spent more than a decade pursuing a war whose purpose was the destruction of Germany as an ECONOMIC power.

    “Attritional wars commonly result from failed knockout blows, WW1 being notorious.”

    Well, NO. When the von Schlieffen Plan stalled before it could take Paris in 1914, the Germans IMMEDIATELY began pursuing peace negotiations. The French, still hating all Germans over the embarrassment of the 1870 war, of course refused. The English, who were aiming for ECONOMIC defeat of Germany, also refused. But the war was so horrendously EXPENSIVE, and so by late 1915 England could ONLY hope to repay the HUGE pile of loans they had already run up (artillery ammo for “quick-firing guns” was unimaginably expensive) was by VAST monetary “reparations” from a defeated Germany.

    So we have one side, the Central Powers, willing to discuss an end to the mistaken war, and the other side, the “Allies”, murdering an entire generation of their young men out of pure hatred mixed with really bad financial decisions.

    That’s not the same as a “war of attrition”.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    VM, you inadvertently support my point, though it is coloured by your perception of the British. Let’s outline:

    — With Russian Intelligence agency backing, Serbian terrorists assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince and his wife in Sarajevo (part of the Balkan mess linked to the declining Ottoman and Austrian empires)

    — In the background, Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire had been building a fleet that threatened Britain’s maritime interest and triggered a Battleship arms race.

    — The Kaiser gave the infamous blank chque to the Austrians, who saw an opportunity to deal with the Serbian threat.

    — The Russians saw themselves as needing to back their interests in their fellow slavs.

    — Germany, fearing defeat in a two-front war in E and W (and having lingering conflict with France) had a 2-front war plan that required early mobilisation to defeat France then switch E to defeat the slow moving Russians.

    — This plan sought to outflank French defences by going through Belgium.

    — The Belgians refused to be a passive highway for Germany (which was one party guaranteeing its neutrality) to invade France.

    — The British saw the prospect of a hostile naval power on the Channel coast (armed with submarises and torpedoes etc) that threatened its sea-trade jugular, AND were a guaranteeing power of Belgian neutrality. (Belgium had been created as a buffer state, in part to contain France!)

    — Historically, Britain sought to counter-weight emergence of a dominant hostile power in Europe by backing the weaker side to sustain a balance of power. At least, since it Backed the Netherlands in their conflict with the Spanish Hapsburgs.

    — So, once Germany mobilised (in response to Russian mobilisation to back the Serbs), war in the Balkans became a European then global great war.

    — The Schlieffen Plan, of course, was Germany’s knockout stroke targetting France. By sweeping through Belgium, the intent was to outflank then defeat from the rear, the French armies. Taking Paris as part of this was a debate within the Plan.

    — In the end, the UK intervened, sending Marines to Belgium and the Army to France. The Army helped the Paris garrison and others strike a gap in the German front, which triggered a withdrawal. The knockout failed.

    — Meanwhile, the Russians sent two armies forward into Prussia from the E and forced a german response, ultimately including switching two corps from the W. The Russians were heavily defeated at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes.

    — In the W, a race of outflanking and the need to dig in soon led to the trench warfare battles of attrition that prevailed for four years.

    — In the E, Germany had to keep propping up Austria, which suffered catastrophic losses in the opening months of the war. Eventually, eastern powers were beaten one by one until Russia dropped out and suffered a revolution in 1917.

    — Germany shifted forces W, and hoped to defeat the allies there before the Americans (brought in through the implications of submarine warfare) could tell with decisive numbers. It failed.

    — Across 1918, the balance shifted to the Allies in the W, and German forces were forced back. By Nov 11, an armistice was signed, then in 1919, the flawed Versailles treaty.

    KF

    PS: I left off secondary fronts and campaigns. The only truly noteworthy event was the naval clash at Jutland where the Royal Navy suffered 2:1 losses in men and had three battlecruisers explode, but retained the strategic status quo of a long distance blockade.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: The problems with peace offers after the failed unprovoked invasion of Belgium and France should be at once apparent from:

    https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/peace_initiatives

    Driven by their failure to achieve a decisive military victory in the first few weeks of the war and their concern that they could not win a long war against a united Allied coalition, German officials made contact with various French dissident figures from late 1914 through 1916, suggesting that France could have peace in exchange for giving Germany a war indemnity and perhaps colonial concessions. They especially focused on politicians close to ex-Minister President Joseph Caillaux (1863-1944), who they thought opposed the war and the existing French political system. The initiative for a separate peace with Russia likewise began in late 1914 and continued into 1915, peaking in late June and July. German leaders sent out peace offers to Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia (1868-1918) through Hans Niels Andersen (1852-1937), a shipping magnate and confidant of Christian X, King of Denmark (1870-1947), as well as to Russian ex-Premier Count Sergei Witte (1849-1915), who was rumored to be pro-German. Germany’s Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921) assured the Russians that Germany wanted “only small concessions in order to protect our eastern border, as well as financial and commercial treaties.”[1] Germany pursued still other contacts through family connections of the Tsar, stating that the Central Powers would allow Russia free passage of the Straits in exchange for peace.[2]

    Approaching in the main those out of power in France rather than the Govt and demanding an indemnity paid to an unprovoked invader already sitting on two seized provinces (Alsace and Lorraine) does not comment itself as a genuine offer. Likewise, attempts to separate the allies through trying to get a deal with one party that would in effect have shifted the Spring 1918 offensive to spring 1915 (and without the Americans).

  7. 7

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